Garden Club gives hospital a green thumbs up


Hope is budding in the entryway of the building housing the Program in the Women’s Oncology and Breast Health Center at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island.

Last month, Warwick’s Chatham Village Garden Club, a 30-member group of women from throughout Rhode Island, funded the installation of a long indoor planter containing King Maya indoor palms, variegated pothos, and bromeliad, in the lobby area of the center, located at 1 Blackstone Street in Providence. The palm fronds reach five feet along the wall of windows that face an old highway off ramp.

Club member and Warwick resident Carol Lukowski said the light exposure is “perfect” for the choice of plants. She also said the Club was anxious to support the project, and used about $500 they raised during an annual springtime plant show.

They plan to raise more money this year so they can continue the project, as at least 10 members will be regularly visiting the hospital to maintain the plants.

“Our club is very small, but we are committed to doing this,” said Lukowski. “So many women know this building. It is a location people go for testing, diagnosis, treatment, and so forth. Cancer crosses all social, economic, racial, religious barriers.”

Lukowski, who has been with the Club for three years, visited the Center a few years ago for acupuncture. As someone who has done a lot of indoor and outdoor gardening since childhood, she noticed the lobby lacked plants.

“I just said, ‘Gee. What a great place to put some plants,’” she said, noting the importance of environment in terms of healing. “To bring something living into a place is just so important. One of our members was a patient there a few years ago and she remarked about the same thing.”

In a press release, Club member Janice Marcello, as well as Cornelius “Skip” Granai III, MD, director of the Program in Women’s Oncology, agree. Mercello said, “Research has shown that people treated in a place that is neat, clean and attractive feel better. This is just something we thought we could do [for cancer patients] that would help during their treatment,” while Granai expressed his gratitude to the Club, and added, “What we try to create within the walls of this building is a unique location for women to heal. That means providing such things as music, poetry and an environment that is comfortable and visually soothing.”

To get the project blooming, Lukowski wrote a letter to the CEO, explaining that the Club was interested in lending a hand, not to mention more than a few green thumbs. Kimberly Silvestri, a Women & Infants staff member, contacted them and set up a meeting. In time, they received approval for the project, and met with the hospital’s professional indoor landscaper for a consultation.

The indoor planting was coordinated with Plant Interiors Inc., of Greenville, and undertaken through the Club’s Civic Beautification Committee, which has done plantings at Warwick municipal buildings.

Lukowski, along with Janice Marcello and Club member Gail Hatfield, who was treated at the facility several years ago, and said seeing bright floral arrangements on the admitting desks lifted her spirits, attended the installation. They were honored to represent the Club, which is affiliated with the Federation of the Rhode Island Garden Club.

“It’s not just a bunch of ladies getting together talking about plants,” Lukowski said. “It’s a learning experience and the aesthetic appreciation of plants. It’s a wonderful group of women who share a love and knowledge about gardening.”

In the future, timed around construction at the facility to create the Program’s new Infusion Center and Integrative Care Program facility, the club will also plant 20 rose bushes along the parameter of the building.

They’ve done similar projects for other organizations, such as a bulb planting at the Pilgrim Senior Center, as well as gardening at Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center, where they hold their monthly meetings.

“It’s gives us a feeling that we have done something really special for women and for the community,” Lukowski said. “Whether they notice it or not, the point is if anything it’s cleaning the air a little bit. Even if it’s secondary, it’s still something. There is a personal connection with the members and an appreciation of gardening, and to be able to bring this to the community.”

To make a donation, email Lukowski at


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